In this season of hope we call Advent, we will prepare ourselves for Christmas by reflecting each week on the words of the Prophet Isaiah,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the governments will be upon his shoulders,
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of PeaceIsaiah 9:6
Prince is not a word we hear or use very often. Typically, when we hear this word it is referring to either an enigmatic 80’s rock star or a secondary character in a Disney movie, not someone with the initials “H.R.H” in front of their name. On the rare occasions that we ourselves use the word, we are using it either positively for someone who has done something generous and thoughtful for us or negatively for someone who has done something selfish and thoughtless for themselves. Like I said, it is a word we don’t tend to hear or use very often.
This is one of the luxuries of the modern age.
For much of history this was not the case as princes were very real people with very real power over others. A prince was someone who was special and set apart – it was an office one was born into not a role you aspired to or applied for. And a prince was someone who was important and powerful – there were long lines of people whose titles and livelihoods and even lives themselves depended on the will and whims of the prince they served. And a prince was someone you put your hopes in – yes, your hopes for the present but also your hopes for the future as you hoped they might one day possess all of the good but none of the bad of the present monarch.
But this was rarely the case.
There are few stories of princes who were truly different than those who went before them. Many of the princes fulfilled Samuel’s warning to the people of Israel when they asked for a king. Samuel’s warning was essentially, “He will take and take and take.” So he will take your crops and money and land and labour. He will take your sons for his army and your daughters for his home. You will always give and give and give and give. And he will always take and take and take. After all, the greatness of his name is measured by the monuments and the military victories that come never at the cost of his sweat or blood but always someone else’s. Because princes always take and take and take not give and give and give.
But Isaiah spoke of a very different sort of prince who was to come.
Yes, like any other prince this one is special and set apart. Yes, like any other prince this one is important and powerful and someone we can put our hopes in. But he will be unlike any other prince because he is one who gives and gives and gives – the greater serving the lesser for their gain and good not his own. Isaiah spoke of one who would not just be a prince like any other but rather the Prince of Peace. This is to say that his rule and reign will be one that is characterized by peace. Peace between us and him. Peace between us and God. Peace between us and each other. Peace between us and the planet we live on. He is a prince who makes this sort of peace possible by both setting an example for how this peace is achieved and by knocking down whatever barriers might stand between us and each other. This child born in Bethlehem is the Prince of Peace who has given himself for us and for our gain and good not simply his own.
May we experience him as our Prince of Peace as we seek to walk in the way of peace he leads us in.
- Joe Welty